Preventive Care

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Preventative care describes measures that are performed in an effort to prevent an illness or injury. Preventative care is often divided into two main areas, which include practicing good health habits as a defense against illness and disease, and using preventive services such as childhood immunisations, yearly physicals and screening tests to prevent or catch disease early. This section provides an overview about preventative care, as well as information on its importance and details about the services available.

For tips on the most essential habits for a healthy lifestyle, go to the section Health Habits. Finally, our Self Help Resources can point you to other sources of information to support you on your preventative care journey.

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Medical research has come a long way, and as a result, people live much longer than they used to. For this reason, maintaining your body and good health throughout your entire lifetime has never been so important. Eating right, getting regular exercise and avoiding destructive substances like tobacco, alcohol and excessive amounts of sugar and salt are crucial aspects of preventative care. For more information, see Maintaining Good Health Habits.

In addition to these habits, regular visits with your doctor are recommended to make use of preventive services. These services will help you to stay healthy and catch disease early, when a full cure is much more likely. Preventive services include periodic screening tests for specific problems, such as cholesterol screening, colon cancer screening, as well as routine Pap tests for women or prostate exams for men.

According to a 2007 study by the Partnership for Prevention , preventive services are grossly underused. After studying the top 12 preventive care services, the authors concluded that increasing the use of just 5 of these services would save more than 100,000 lives each year in the United States alone.

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Maintaining good health habits is the cornerstone of preventative care. Healthy habits will not only improve the quality of your life by boosting your energy, helping you feel good about yourself, stabilising your mood, and keeping your body as healthy as possible – it may also help you live longer.

The following are some simple factors that, if practiced regularly, can enrich life and minimise the risk of illness:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute , if you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers.
  • Stop smoking: If you smoke, quit. Smoking is linked to a higher risk of lung cancer and heart disease. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit.
  • Control conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes: If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or a history of family heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent you developing heart-related problems. Take the prescribed medication, follow the correct dosage and do not stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first. Doing so is likely to make your symptoms worse and put your health at risk.
  • Stay physically active: Exercise is a key factor in staying healthy. Exercise strengthens the bones, heart, and lungs, tones muscles, improves vitality, relieves depression, and helps you sleep better. Generally, 30 minutes or more of moderate activity, such as bicycle riding and brisk walking, per day is a good initial goal.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet: A heart healthy diet includes a variety of vegetables and fruits. It also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, and beans and peas. Avoid foods that are high in salt, added sugars, solid fats, and refined grains.
  • Get sufficient sleep: Sleep is absolutely essential for normal, healthy function. Even minimal sleep loss can take a toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Aim for the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Reduce and manage stress:  Stress is a natural reaction and can help you rise to meet challenges by allowing you to stay energetic and alert. But too much stress stops being helpful and leads to imbalance, causing damage to your physical health, as well as your mood, relationships and productivity. So while it’s not always possible to eliminate all stressful events from your life, consider making some positive changes or employing relaxation techniques that can reduce stress levels, such as meditation.
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